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Chiang Rai, Chiang Khong, Houixai, Boat to Pakbeng, Luang Prabang; Nong Kiau (Muang Ngoy Mai), Muang Ngoy Kao (11 - 17 April 2008)

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Ban Huay Fuang beach on Mekong river
Ban Huay Fuang beach on Mekong river

It was just after the noon time. Because of the rain cloud building up upstream it looked like in the early evening. Children were coming up the beach to go home after taking a bath and a splash in the river. At that moment, their life seemed to be complete, full with satisfaction that was happiness. Just because we were there they realized or remembered that there was another world from which we came. In that very moment we felt like we wanted to feel their life. We did not know what they had in their mind looking at us flashing the digital cameras around.

Ban Pakkhop, the road to Hong Sa
Ban Pakkhop, the road to Hong Sa

This river side village has a dirt long road linking to Hong Sa - a place famous for elephants and now for nature tourism as well - and to Thailand border. Ban Pakkhop serves as a boat landing for north-western tip of Xayabouri province, a transit for transport of timber elephants, timber, and other goods.

Mekong workers
Mekong workers

Three ladies workers of the Mekong river country. Were they going home, or moving to the other site? It was nearly 2 p.m. At least two of them were gold panners. The one on the far right might be fisherwoman. They all paused to look at our boat.

Gold panners
Gold panners

People looking at the gold panner's collection for possible gold inclusion. Gold panning is a hard work that needs great patience and skill. Luck seems to play a good part of the trade. You never know how well you will do at the end of the day. People (just) keep on doing with expectation.

At their sand bank we took a stop waiting for the heavy rain ahead of the river to lose strength.

The rain on the Mekong river
The rain on the Mekong river

After taking refuge at the gold panners' sand beach we continued upstream. The rain was still falling but not very heavy. In April Mekong water was low and the boatman had to very carefully navigate the river to avoid grounding. All boat drivers must remember the places and whether or not the water is deep enough for their boat with respect to the time of travel. They also must possess sure memory of the sharp rocks and other dangerous things lurking just under the river surface at certain places - also depending on the water level or the month of the year.

Pakbeng
Pakbeng

The tourist area of Pakbeng had been growing year by year. It was now nearly one kilometer long from just about 300 meters a few years back. The hotels' electricity was available for some hours only. Few of the tourists started to spend more than just the necessary one night stop out of their slow boat trip to Luang Prabang.

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